TUI pulls CEE flights due to dip in demandReading Time: 2 minutes
Tour operator TUI Belgium has cancelled scheduled summer flights to Bulgaria and North Macedonia citing falling interest in destinations in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) since the start of the war in Ukraine.
The subsidiary of UK-German tourism firm TUI Group says customer demand has also fallen for CEE weekend break staples such as the Czech capital, Prague.
TUI Belgium operates bi-weekly services to two Bulgarian airports on the Black Sea, Burgas and Varna. The company says their relative proximity to war-torn Ukraine has negatively impacted the enthusiasm of potential tourists.
TUI Belgium spokesman Piet Demeyere said “We have decided to cancel all flights from Brussels to Bulgaria until 30 June. Bulgaria is not a risky country, but we have noticed that Belgian travellers are rather reticent when it comes to choosing destinations in Eastern Europe,” he told Belgian website VRT News.
TUI Belgium has also cancelled the flights to the lake resort of Ohrid, North Macedonia, for the whole summer season, Demeyere explained.
On falling demand for CEE’s more urban, weekend destinations such as Prague, he said “travellers currently favour city trips to Valencia and Lisbon”, adding that “the entire region seems to be suffering because of the situation in Ukraine”.
Demeyere expressed hopes for an uptick in tourism from July. “It is absolutely not our intention to cancel flights (to Bulgaria) after 30 June. However, we will of course continue to monitor the geopolitical situation closely”, he said, adding that refunds will be offered to any customers who had booked seats on cancelled flights.
Last August the TUI Group reported a net loss of EUR 2.3bn for the period from October 2019 to June 2020. This was mainly as a result of the COVID:19 pandemic, as EUR 1.5bn of the losses were registered from April to June 2020.
In March 2022, TUI Group’s largest shareholder Alexei Mordashov, an oligarch and Kremlin ally, was placed under sanctions in relation to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the previous month.